This isn't your father's NFL. Heck, this isn't your older sibling's NFL. The NFL game has evolved so much recently with new rules, new types of athletes and new formations. We all know about our beloved Oakland Raiders' hardships and struggles since the beginning of the 2003 season all the way into the now, the year 2009. With all of the struggles that have gone on, I think it's time to undergo a dramatic makeover. Let me make the case for the Oakland Raiders to implement a spread offense. It's not 1970 anymore, it's not 1980, it's not 1990, it's not even 2000 nor is it 2005. It's 2009, so let's get with the time.
Let's start off with the basics. The spread offense, as pretty much all of us know, is basically a passing formation utilizing a shot gun. It allows you spread the field, hence "spread" in the title, and use your weapons in three-, four- and five-receiver sets. You can mix and match as you'd like, of course, with running backs and tight ends. Why would you use a spread offense, you ask? It works and the run game doesn't.
I'm looking at the 2009 rushing leaders by teams. The Tennessee Titans (5-6) are in first place, the New York Jets (5-6) are in second place, the Carolina Panthers (4-7) are in third place and the Miami Dolphins (5-6) are in fourth place. All four of those teams are under .500. This is not a running league anymore. The ball control style of football on the ground with a "game-managing" quarterback doesn't work anymore. Pound it all you want, but you better be able to throw the ball through the air.
Let's take a look not the passing leaders, but those teams in the bottom 11 in passing offense. The St. Louis Rams (1-10), San Francisco 49ers (5-6), Carolina Panthers (4-7), Kansas City Chiefs (3-8), Buffalo Bills (4-7), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-10), New York Jets (5-6), Miami Dolphins (5-6), Tennessee Titans (5-6), Cleveland Browns (1-10) and the Oakland Raiders (3-8) are your teams that rank inside the bottom 10 teams in passing offense. All 11 of those teams are under .500. If you want to win games in the NFL, throw the football. It's easier to throw the ball when you spread the field and teams that do have been successful in the NFL.
Let's now take a look at the passing leaders in the NFL this season. Once again, it's a group of 11 that stick out at me. The Indianapolis Colts (11-0), New England Patriots (7-3), Houston Texans (5-6), Pittsburgh Steelers (6-4), Green Bay Packers (7-4), Arizona Cardinals (7-4), New Orleans Saints (10-0), Philadelphia Eagles (7-4), Dallas Cowboys (8-3), Minnesota Vikings (10-1) and San Diego Chargers (7-4) are the top 11 passing teams in the league. I look at the teams that predominately either use a shot gun or at least have four weapons out there consistently. Those teams are the Colts, Patriots, Packers, Cardinals, Saints, Eagles and even the Cowboys. The Chargers use the shot gun often as well. These are the teams that are having success. They are putting the ball in the air. You're probably saying, "Hey, most of these teams don't use the true spread. They're dropping back and passing the ball." Well, if you're going to drop back and pass the ball, spread 'em out and utilize all of your weapons. The Saints and Patriots are the best examples of this, and even the Colts.
I think that after this season, our best bet is to go to a spread offense. "Well, Rated-R, you need the right personnel. You can't just do this on a whim, silly." Yes, this is true. You need the right kind of personnel. We do not yet have all the pieces needed. After shoring up the right side of the offensive line and possibly grabbing a wide receiver somehow, all we need is a quarterback. Potential free agent quarterbacks include Jason Campbell from Washington and Trent Edwards from Buffalo, and I'd even look into trading for Dennis Dixon from Pittsburgh. Drafting a quarterback is another option and there are quarterbacks who have run a spread offense in college. Tim Tebow from the University of Florida and Tony Pike from the University of Cincinnati stand out as quarterbacks who would be familiar with this system. I want to make the case for a running quarterback, though, while we're here. We can double up on our spread system. If we acquire a guy like Dennis Dixon or draft someone like Tim Tebow, we can incorporate the wildcat formation in with this spread offense. No one can deny that we don't already have the pieces in place for a wildcat formation. Darren McFadden, a talented player that was born to the formation, was the prototype for the formation at the University of Arkansas. He ran it very effectively with now Dallas Cowboys running back Felix Jones. McFadden was a passing threat as well as a rushing threat. The Miami Dolphins who are the masters of the wildcat formation have a quarterback by the name of Pat White, a former star at West Virginia University, and he's a passing threat in that formation. If we get our running threat in the spread offense, he can run the wildcat formation with McFadden.
Breaking away from that little wildcat moment there, let's go back to the personnel needed for a spread offense. Obviously, wide receivers are a must. Different types of wide receivers are a must. The Patriots have a deep threat with Randy Moss, a possession receiver in Wes Welker and two really good tight ends in Benjamin Watson and Chris Baker. With those four guys through the air with some other young talent, the Patriots have excelled in using the spread offense. We don't need to go team-by-team to look at the Saints or Colts. You can figure it out. For the Raiders, we have speed and size. Do we have guys that can catch? Well, the only guy I have a major problem with is that one rookie from the University Maryland by the name of Darrius Heyward-Bey. He has the speed, as does Johnnie Lee Higgins. Chaz Schilens can be the possession receiver and Louis Murphy can stretch the field with his size and speed. Zach Miller is one of the top tight ends in the AFC and our most reliable target. The Colts' most reliable target is Dallas Clark, another tight end. The afformentioned McFadden can work like a Reggie Bush, Kevin Faulk or Joseph Addai out of the backfield. We can mix in Michael Bush and Justin Fargas to occasionally carry the ball and even to be used in the wildcat formation along with our running threat of a quarterback and Darren McFadden.
No, I am not comparing the Raiders to the Saints, Colts or Patriots. No, I am not saying that we can be as successful as these teams are right now right away. What I am saying is that we need a change. So, let's change with the NFL. We don't have to challenge for the undefeated record or go to the Super Bowl right away. I think what we can do, though, is become a better football team with this new style of offense. The NFL is moving in a direction away from the smash mouth style of football that used to be played to win. Defensive backs can hardly put a finger on wide receivers these days, so let it rip or at least toss it around backyard-style. With the rule changes allowing the offenses to be more freer, let's use it to our advantage as clearly the more successful teams have. To me, the spread offense is worth a shot. It really is worth a shot.